I decided I needed more hard numbers, the kind of data that makes non tank nerds eyes roll up in their heads, stuff like how many spare periscopes were issued with an early war M4A1! One of the best way to do this is through tank Data sheets, as found in the back of many books on tanks. I used Hunnicutt’s Sherman book for some, but others I’ve made using the Hunnicutt ones as a template and then using data from the Technical Manual for the tank.
That’s not all though, I decided the gun Data sheets in Hunnicut were really interesting, so I started replicating those, but with an improved format, and slightly more data. These gun Data Sheets can be found here, Main Guns: THings that go BOOM! All the guns the Sherman tank used are covered, and more are coming.
In the works are Data Sheets for each Sherman tank motor, and several experimental models. These Data sheets will have much more detailed info on the motor, and will include interesting images from the manuals for the motors.
Also in the works as dedicated pages for these data sheets, the beta test of the gun version is up and can be found here. Next up will be ones for each tank model and then motor.
Also note the latest post on the Ram tank, The Ram: The Shermans awkward Canadian Cousin. This post covers the Canadian and British attempt to come up with a better Sherman before the Sherman design and prototype was done. I’ve been sent some very interesting documents, some are included in the post.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Sherman information!
Sherman Fire Control: How the Sherman aimed its Main Gun.
The Sherman tank went through a series of fire control changes each an improvement over the last. The first tanks lacked telescopic sight mounted on the gun mount. The only site was incorporated into the gunner’s periscope, and it wasn’t magnified. Since the periscopes were all interchangeable, updating the older tanks was easy at least were the periscope was concerned.
The final fire control setup the Sherman gunner had at his disposal was pretty impressive by the standards of the time. He was in a hydroelectrically driven turret that rotated fast; he had very nice periscope setup with 1x and 6x scopes hooked into the gun with strong linkage. He also had a telescopic sight to work with and the gun was stabilized. This was a vast improvement over the unmagnified reticle on the first production models.
The Lee used a unique setup; the 75mm gun was aimed with an M1 periscope, with an M21A1 periscope built into it. The 37mm was aimed with an M2 periscope with an M19A1 periscope built in. Both the 37 and 75 mounts were stabilized. The prototype M6 Sherman used its own unique sight built into the sight rotor on the top of the turret, this was only used on a small number of production Shermans tanks.
Let’s look at the various periscopes and telescopes the Sherman used through its long life. Let’s start with a look at the various versions of the periscope sights the production Sherman and the TDs based on the chassis below.
The M3 Periscope Sight
Since I just have a little info on this from TM 9-731B on the early M4A2, don’t have much to put here. Maybe this periscope is the one I’ve read about getting foggy on the inside in cold or humid locales. It was quickly replaced with the M4 detailed below. This was one of the non-magnified periscopes.
The M4 Periscope sight
The Periscope M4; it had an M38 telescope with ballistic reticle inside, but no magnification. The M4 was not well liked, and the mount it fit in was made from sheet metal and was a little flimsy. The linkage that attacked it to the gun wasn’t very robust and could be knocked out of alignment annoyingly easily. On early Shermans, this was a big complaint, since they did not have a direct telescope yet. You couldn’t really take advantage of the M3 75mm guns range with this sight setup either since it had no magnification. The later better periscopes like the M4, M4A1 and M8 series would all fit in the old mount though.
The M4A1 Periscope Sight
Next came an improved version of the M4, the M4A1, and they came with an M38A2 telescope, this one was magnified, but not much at 1.44x, and a 9-degree field of view. Later versions of this periscope had illuminated reticles. The mount was not improved though nor was the linkage. The M4A1 periscope was changed when the 105mm and 76mm armed Shermans came online when used with these guns, they had the M47A2 for the 76 tanks, and M77C for the 105 tanks. Hunnicutt doesn’t specify if these were also 1.44X. This periscope was found on M4A1, A2, and A3 76 tanks during WWII.
The M8/M8A1 Periscope Sight
The M4A1 periscopes were replaced by the M8 and M8A1 periscopes. They were a lager tougher improvement on the M4 series, and had the M39A2 telescopic reticle for use with the 76mm gun since it had the same reticle as the M47A2 used in the M4A1 periscope. The M39A2 had 1.8x magnification and a 6-degree FOV. Even though at this point this was no longer the primary sight, the Army kept improving it. But the mount and linkage still remained an issue.
The M10 Periscope Sight
The Army came up with another new periscope sight system called the M10. They started issuing it late in the war around the same time wet tanks start appearing. This was a much-improved periscope; it incorporated two telescopes with reticles, one 1.x, with a field of view of 42 degrees, ten minutes for engaging close targets. The second periscope had a 6x telescope with an 11 degree 20-minute field of view. This periscope could be used with the 76, 75, and 105mm guns when the right reticle was fitted. There was also an M16 periscope, pretty much the same as the m10, but with a reticle adjusting system.
M10C was specific to 75mm Shermans.
M10D was used on 76mm tanks and 105 tanks.
The Periscope mount
for these periscopes were improved greatly when the 76mm gun and 105 tanks arrived, and the mount was made from a beefy casting, and all the linkage was made much stronger will ball bearing in all the pivot points. These would have shown up on M4A1 75w, M4A3 75w, M4A3 105, M4 105, and M4A3 76w, M4A2 76w and M4A1 76w tanks.
This improved mount was also incorporated into most of the post-war rebuild and overhauls. It is very easy to spot, by the heavy cast iron hood over the periscope hole.
The Telescopic sights.
The Shermans fire control system was improved further by the incorporation of a direct telescope mount to the M38A1 gun mount. This prompted the creation of the full-length gun mantlet to protect the scope. When these were retrofitted into older tanks, sometimes they would weld on armor over the scope, leaving a half armored mantlet.
The later 76mm armed tanks had the M62 mount, and it had a telescopic sight mount from the start.
The direct scopes went through their own evolution, and this information is put together from the various TMs on the tanks and Hunnicutt’s Sherman and is not complete. I will update this section as I get more info on the topic.
The M55 Telescope: The first! For the 75mm and 105
This telescope had 3x magnifications with 12 degree 19-minute FOV. This sight was also used on the early production 105 tanks and most 75mm Shermans.
The M51: Also the First, but for the 76 M1A1
The same scope as above, with the same specs, but with the reticle for the 76mm guns, and that’s all. There were complaints about the optical quality on these scopes since the clarity wasn’t optimal.
M70 Telescopic Sight
The M50 sights were replaced with the M70 Series sights, the same size, and magnification. What set them apart was there superior optical quality. The Army went on to develop many different versions of this sight. It was a 3X scope with a 12 degree 19-minute FOV.
M70F Telescopic Sight
This was version used on M4A3 75W Shermans.
M70G Telescopic Sight
This sight was used on M10 GMC tank destroyers.
M70P Telescopic Sight
This sight was used on some M36 CMCs tank destroyers.
M71D Telescopic Sight
This was a 5x with a 13-degree FOV version of the scope. It had the reticle for the 76mm guns and was used on those tanks. This was the sight commonly found on M4A1 and M4A2 76 tanks.
M71G Telescopic Sight
This version of the M71 was issued with the Jumbo tanks.
M72D Telescopic Sight
This was used on the 105mm armed Shermans.
M76F/D Telescopic Sight
These telescopes were used on the M36 GMC tank destroyers.
M76G Telescopic Sight
This scope only had a 3x magnification, with a 21 degree, 30 minutes FOV, and was used in 105 tank applications later in the war.
M83 Veritable Power Telescopic Sight.
This scope had two settings, 4x 7 degrees, 40 minutes and 8x 4 degrees, 15 minutes, and M83D version of this sight worked with the 76mm guns when in an M62 mount. I have not seen this one mentioned anywhere but Hunnicutt’s Sherman book. That doesn’t mean it didn’t get issued as a replacement later in the war since I’m going off TM’s and spec sheets and those are a small snapshot into a tanks actual combat gear.
. . .
Indirect Fire Control Gear
You would think that would be it for fire control equipment, but it’s not because all Shermans came equipped with the equipment for their tanks to work as impromptu artillery batteries all Sherman based TDs had this gear as well. The US Army had this extra gear installed all the way up to the M60 tanks. During the war, some tank and TD battalions were very good at being artillery; other units didn’t train for it and were not good. This was a good way of keeping tanks useful in Italy, and they filled this role a lot there. I do not think this was something many other nations did with their tanks.
Azimuth Indicator M19
The Azimuth Indicator was mounted near the gunner, right behind the traverse control. This device was used to dial in what direction the gun needed to be pointed in to carry out the fire mission.
Gunners Quadrant M1
The Gunners quadrant is a portable precision instrument used for measuring the elevation or depression angles of guns and howitzers. It can also be used for checking the adjusting of elevation devices on sighting equipment furnished with a gun or howitzer. This was taken right from the Characteristics in tech manual 9-1527.
Elevation Quadrant M9
The Elevation Quadrant M9 was used to lay the tanks main gun in elevation for indirect fire. There are detailed instructions for setting it up in TM 9-748.
A Sherman unit trained in how to act as an artillery battery would probably be told they were on call when not in direct combat but close enough for the 75s to reach. They would have men manning radios in the tanks while other tasks were being done, like maintenance, personal things, and eating. When they got the call, the designated battery commander for each platoon would listen to the directions on the arty net or get in direct contact with the spotter. In many cases they would be connected to the net directly, so they wouldn’t need to worry about radio reception. They would relay the aiming information out the tanks on the radio or phone net and then they would start firing.
Once they started firing the whole crew would help feed the gun, and if they were doing it as a common thing they might even have large amounts of ammo unboxed outside the tank, where the driver and co-driver could feed them to the commander who then fed them to the loader. The M3 75mm gun worked well in this role since the barrel had a life in excess of 4000 rounds.
Bibliography and sources: So here are all my sources
So yes, I know the site would be better with a list of sources, and this is going to be that post for now. I will also, as I review and rewrite all the articles over time, add them to each post.
A bit about the site, and myself, I’m just a guy who really likes WWII history, and more specifically, WWII tank history. I am not an expert on the Sherman, but I do know a hell of a lot about it, and I have a lot of opinions about it as well, and much of this site is me sharing that opinion. The hard data is not my opinion, the specifications, and other details are not my opinion and come from many different sources. Most of these are listed in the book review and links section. There is even a data post with a whole lot of useful information in picture format of various documents.
First and foremost, most of the minutia details come from reading the Sherman Minutia Website a lot and looking through the Son of a Sherman book. Between these two sources, you can answer almost any question about a production detail on a Sherman you may have, and the nice thing about the SMW is it’s always being updated. I only cover these details in a very general way, I could never do it as well as the book or site.
My next big source of information is period literature and manuals. If you haven’t noticed, I have a very large selection of technical manuals and field manuals on my website, all available for download, for free. I’ve collected a huge number of the things over the years, most in PDF format, but a few in real paper, and I’ve read a hell of a lot of them. I am missing a few key Technical Manuals, like one on the M4/M4A1, I have the M4A2, A3 and A4 covered though, and several TDs and the Lee. I’m pretty confident I could start up and drive around and M4A2 or A3 or even A4 and adjust the clutch linkage and do a host of other maintenance tasks from reading through the manuals on how to do them. These old tanks are so similar to old cars is funny, and if you know a good bit about old cars the manuals should be very easy to follow, the big difference is the size of the tools and weights involved.
Along with the TM and FMs, I’ve hosted a lot of other documents I’ve found on the internet, from battalion and division histories, the very interesting Combat Lessons booklets the DOD put out during WWII, and I’ve taken information from all these sources.
Now for the books, so many books, most of these I own, and love, but a few I only have in PDF. I already mentioned Son of a Sherman Volume one. If you have any interest in the Sherman tank, you should by the book while it’s in print and reasonable in price, it’s fantastic. It also had some of the better info I used in the factories post. It’s to late to get this book at regular price now, and new and used copies are going for 300 to 700 bucks!
Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank, by RP Hunnicutt is the holy grail of Sherman books. It is filled with so much information about the production history, use, design, modifications, and hard specifications, that much of the data on this site comes from this book. The gun chart data came from here, all the data sheets, and a lot of the future things that almost made it came from here as well. This book is currently in print again, for 60 buck paperback, 70 hardbacks. Buy it now, before it goes back into the hundreds after going out of print. Though slightly dated in is the short history of battle sections, it is still an amazing book, and really the only hard technical history of the Sherman that is really great. Also always keep your eye out for an original printing, the photos are much better.
Armored Thunderbolt: The US Army Sherman in WWII, by Steven Zaloga this book, when combined with Son of a Sherman and RP Hunnicutt’s Sherman book will give you a very good knowledge base on both the technical and historical histories of the tank, and if you throw in Son of a Sherman you have all the minute details covered. With these three books, you can really get a good idea how wrong the pop culture opinion of the Sherman and German armor in general really is. So a little more about this book, Zaloga covers both the design history, though not in minute detail, (You will not find detailed specification sheets or a breakdown of the exact details of the differences in all Sherman models) but he does cover much more of the politics and decision making that led to some of the key problems that popped up with the Sherman, US Tank design, and armor tactics. In this book and several Interesting interviews, he really covers why Belton Cooper of Deathtraps fame was so wrong. He also has a lot of the numbers in his book backing up the Sherman performing in battle better than the Panther. Zaloga is a prolific writer and has put a lot down on paper about the Sherman, and I’ve read almost all of it, aside from a few older Osprey New Vanguard books. This man, almost as much as R.P. Hunnicutt is responsible for bringing out the truth about the Sherman tank.
The Tank Killers, Steel Victory, and the Infantry’s Armor, by Harry Yeide, These books are another big source they are really great books covering the use of Tank Destroyers and the Separate Tank Battalions. Yeide is both knowledgeable and easy to read, and I will continue to buy every book he puts out.
Marine Tank battles of the Pacific by Oscar Gilbert, in comparison, to Sherman use elsewhere, until recently info on the Shermans use in the Pacific was pretty light. This book is specific to the Marines and covers more than just Shermans use, but it does a pretty good job of covering each battle, and most of the info, along with some histories from the Marine Corps was used for the old Tarawa post. His book on Marine tank use in Korea also has some Sherman use covered and is a good read as well.
Tanks in Hell by Oscar Gilbert and Romain Cansiere is a very recent and very detailed study of the use of Marine Shermans on Tarawa. It is the most detailed history available on the Shermans use in that battle and clears up some mysteries and misconceptions. It was a great read and I just finished it up.
There are so many books on the Sherman out there, I’ve tried to read any I could, but the ones listed are the best and most important. I do not read books just on the Sherman tank, and at one time was what one could consider a wehraboo, and I know the guy who invented the word too, so I have that going for me. Anyway, while a wehraboo, I collected some of the premium good source books on German tanks. Reading through Panther Tank by Thomas L Jentz started me down the path to salvation, the combat readiness reports found in that book; even on the late model G Panther are truly pathetic, though it is really a beautiful book, Jentz was only against listing source material. I also have Panther and its Variants by Walter Speilberger, another beautiful book, filled with beautiful illustrations on a tank so unreliable to be almost useless. I have Jentz’s two books on the Tiger, D.W to Tiger I and Tiger I&II Combat tactics. Also very nice books but based on old outdated historical information when it comes to the unit histories, but boy are the pictures great. I have Speilburger’s books on the Panzer III and IV, both great books, and the subject matter is more interesting since these were the real stars of the German tank design, in that at least they worked and offered real value to the German Army. I’ve read Tigers in the mud and even enjoyed it. There are of course more, but that covers the really big stuff/good stuff.
Other important sources are sites like Archive Awareness, who author takes Russian Soviet-era archive documents and translates them and offers opinions on them. He has some very interesting information on the Sherman tank on his site, and far more on Russian tanks and German lies. Some say he is biased, but if he is, it’s against the Nazi propaganda that still lives on to stink up the world, and I’m fine with that. Other good sites include Tank and AFV news, and the Lone Sentry.
The Chieftains Hatch of Wargaming fame, like him or not has produced some very interesting new information about various tanks, and his publication of the French post-war report on Panther use is a real eye-opener and was groundbreaking info. I have links to many of his very interesting posts in the links section. Like World of Tanks or not, they have dropped a lot of real cash on restoring real tanks, and paying real researchers to unearth interesting tank information, they deserve some real credit for furthering the modern understanding of Armor. Wargaming also got a lot of armor experts in one place as a panel for their Operation Think Tank series and let the crowd ask questions, it is on YouTube and filled with very interesting info.
If I have it listed on my links, information from their website has probably contributed to a post on this site.
Now a final bit about sources and this site, all the information in the various posts is true to the best of my knowledge and sources. Some information, mostly image captions are very generic and often wrong, and many helpful people have posted corrections, and I’m always grateful for it this help. If you think I’m wrong on something, and you can back it up with sourced info, by all means, contact me through the site email, or posting a comment so I can correct any mistakes. I try and keep the site from being about my ego in any way, and will listen to reasonable people with reasonable arguments and most importantly, data and source info to back it up. Don’t bother if your ‘source info’ originated with a German wartime SS source, their wartime numbers are not at all accurate, and even the German army discounted them.
On a final note, am I a fanboy of the Sherman, in a sense, I suppose, but a true fanboy does not understand the flaws of their subject of obsession, and in my case, that’s not true. I know theSherman had flaws, it like all things created by man, was an engineering tradeoff, and the ones they chose, were the right ones for the US Army in WWII, and even Shermans armed with only the 75mm could have carried the day in Europe. Or that’s my opinion anyway, but don’t let my opinions scare you away from all the hard data on the site.
After just over two years in operation, this site has grown past 350,000 words, with a huge number of Sherman photos and drawings, many of the drawings pretty rare. I have more information on the motors and powertrain of the Sherman series than any site on the net. This site has more technical manuals, and field manuals on the Sherman and US Armor use than any site I know of.
This site is largely a one-man operation, and with that much content there will be typos and grammar mistakes, and I apologize and fixe them when I find them. This site has been funded out of my own pocket, and if you count book purchases, the cost has gotten significant, but the content will always remain free, and ad-free.
Main Guns: The Sherman Mounted Six Different Guns, But Not On All Versions,
The Sherman tank and its chassis was host to a variety of guns. Most had the M3 75mm gun, or the M1A1 76mm gun, but many were also equipped with the British 17 pounder, the M3 90mm, 3-inch AT gun, and the M2/M4 105mm howitzer. I will cover each below.
The M3 75mm gun: When it first saw combat, it was a great tank Gun
The M3 75mm gun was a great tank gun for the time the Sherman was first introduced to combat and was based on a well-liked WWI French field gun. When it first saw combat it could punch through any German tank it faced, from just about any angle. It’s a myth the Sherman was designed to only support infantry, though its primary role was not anti-armor, it was still designed to face other tanks. The gun worked well in the infantry support role as well, with an effective HE and WP smoke round, and a canister round. This gun had a very high rate of fire in the Sherman (20rpm) and was mated with a basic stabilization system. This system did not allow shooting on the move accurately but did allow the sights and gun to be put on the target faster when the tank came to a stop to shoot. No world war two tanks could shoot on the move with a real chance to hit even a stationary tank sized target. With a twenty round a minute rate of fire, the Sherman could pump out a lot of HE in support of the infantry, and it was not unheard of for the tanks to be used as artillery. The Sherman tank was equipped with all the gear to act as artillery if needed and was a regular occurrence in the MTO, less so in the ETO.
Sherman tanks with the 75mm gun carried between 104 and 97 rounds of main gun ammo. Only 10 to 15% of this ammo was AP, that’s how rare other armor was, HE would make up the majority of the rest of the load, with maybe another 10 to 15% being WP smoke, since this was also a somewhat destructive shell, because it caused fires and WP when it landed on a person was hard to put out. There was also a canister shell, but I think it was only used in the PTO. The rate of fire on the gun is a little misleading, since depending on the Sherman, you would have between 6 and 12 ready rounds, more on the very early Shermans with ready rounds around the base of the turret basket. Once the ready rounds were fired, and often, the ready rounds are kept in reserve anyway, to deal with unexpected threats. Wet Shermans had an armored 6 round ready box mounted in the turret, the rest of the ammo was in armored boxes under the floor. Most wet tanks had a half turret basket or none at all. This was a problem common on pretty much all tanks.
The M3 75mm gun was so well-liked, the British essentially ended up converting many of the QF 6 pounders to fire the same round, fired with basically the same ballistics, with the advantage of not needing to modify the current tanks mount. The WF 6 pounder was a better AT gun, but, its HE round was not very good. The M48 HE round used by the m3 75mm had 1.5 pounds of TNT inside, and since the Sherman could fire them fast, and the shell was fairly handy, it’s easy to see why the gun was good at infantry support. It really only lacked the ability to pen the frontal armor of the German Tiger and Panther, but those tanks were rare enough, or easy enough to get side shots on, the 75 did the job, and did it the whole war since the 76mm armed Shermans never totaled more than 53% of the Sherman force in Europe. The M3 75mm gets a lot of flak thrown at it by ignorant people who think it was a low-velocity gun that could not penetrate armor. These people must be confusing it with the German KwK 37 L/24 75mm gun that armed the first versions of the Panzer IV.
The M1/M1A1/M1A2 76mm gun: Made by Oldsmobile, It Was Not a Great Gun, but Did the Job
The M1 series of 76 mm guns went into production before the US Army had any idea of German heavy tanks or the Panther. They were just looking ahead, to keep the Sherman as good a combat weapon as possible, and to stay ahead in the arms race. They had the 3-inch AT gun on hand and had used it in the M6 and M10, but it was really too bulky to work in a medium tank turret. The Army decided to design a gun with the same ballistics, but in a much lighter, and less bulky package, in doing so the M1 gun was born. The gun overhung the front of the Sherman a lot so the Army decided to shorten it over a foot. It still seemed to match the ballistics of the 3-inch AT gun though; guns with the shorter barrel were designated M1A1 guns. The first three hundred or so guns produced by Oldsmobile lacked muzzle brakes or the threads to install them. Gun’s produced after that had the threads and a protective cap over them so a brake could be installed later. The final variant of the gun was the M1A2, installed in late production 76mm Shermans, this gun always had the muzzle brake, but had a slightly different barrel, with a minor change to the rifling twist.
Much of the later large hatch hull tanks were produced with a larger turret to accommodate the M1 family of 76mm guns. This turret came on M4A1s, M4A2s and M4A3 tanks. The M1A1 on the early tanks, like the M4A1 76 w tanks used in Operation Cobra, came without muzzle brakes. When firing during dusty -conditions the view of the target would be obscured by dust stirred up from the guns blast, the fix for this was for the commander or another crewman to stand away from the tank and talk to the crew over the intercom, via a long wire, and correct the shots onto the target. Not a great fix…The final fix was muzzle brakes; it took a little while for supply to catch up with demand but they were showing up on Shermans in Europe by late 44, and by March they seemed to be in stock and showing up on tanks that had the protective cap before.
Another problem was the gun was not a huge improvement over the M3 75mm as a tank killer, and was not as good as an HE thrower. As mentioned before, several tank divisions didn’t want the improved Shermans at first. The penetration problem would be partially solved with HVAP ammunition, but by the time it was common, German tanks to use it on were not. Post-war, ammunition would be further improved and there would be no shortage of HVAP ammo in Korea, so the US Army would soldier on with the gun, in its final improved form, the M1A2.
The M1 series of guns were also stabilized when installed in the Sherman, but it was the same system used with the 75mm gun, offering limited advantages. The Nazi Germans never fielded a stabilization system of any kind on their tanks. Tanks with the M1 and M1A1 guns carried 71 main gun rounds in wet storage racks under the floor, with an armored 6 round ready rack on the turret floor.
The M3 90mm Gun: The Most Powerful AT Gun the US used During the War.
The US M3 90mm tank gun started out life as an AA gun, a very good AA gun, unlike the very overrated Flak 18/36/37. As the AA gun was developed, its mount gained the ability to be used against ground targets, with up to -10 degrees depression. The ballistic performance on the gun was good, but what really made the AA gun shine was the AA gun system that incorporated Radar, and proximity fuses, sci-fi tech to the Germans, but pretty typical American technology for the time, it was the best land-based AA gun system of the war. Contrary to some claims, it was pretty rare for US 90mm AA guns to be used in the direct fire role. The US Army was rarely desperate enough to have to resort to such tactics.
When the US Army started looking into a bigger AT gun than the 3-inch, the M1/M2 90mm AA gun was a natural choice. The tank-mounted weapon would be designated the M3, and with a barrel threaded for a muzzle brake, the M3A1. When tested against the British 17 pounder gun, the M3 had slightly inferior performance but was more accurate. The US Army preferred the 90mm over the 17-pounder for various reasons, the biggest being it didn’t have scary flashback out of the breach on firing, making it seem like a somewhat shoddy design. The 90mm M3 would soldier on the in the M26/46 tanks but would be replaced by improved 90mm guns on the M47 and M48.
As a dual-purpose tank gun, the M3 90mm was good. Its rounds were not too big for one man to handle. It had good AT performance and a more potent HE round than the M3 75mm gun. When installed on the M36 Tank Destroyer, it was able to deal with the rare heavily armored German threat, if the regular Shermans hadn’t already killed it by the time the M36 got there. Since the gun was not overly hot, it didn’t wear barrels out fast, so it could still be used in an artillery role.
The 3inch AT gun started out life as a AA gun. It was still being used as one for the first half of the war. It was a natural choice as an AT gun since it was being replaced by the M1/2/3 90mm AA gun system. The gun was large, heavy, and bulky, and the M10 tank destroyer’s turret had to be rather large to fit it. They were also able to fit it in the T1/M6 Heavy tank, but it was clear it needed a redesign to fit in a smaller turret like the regular Sherman. This ultimately leads to the M1A1 gun discussed above.
There was also a towed AT gun version of this weapon, it was generally not well-liked. It was too big to move around easily by hand, hard to hide, and didn’t have great pen to work well as a fixed gun. At one point in the war, nearly half the Tank Destroyer Battalions were towed and equipped only with the towed guns and trucks to move them. These TD battalions had little luck, and some really got clobbered in the Battle of the bulge.
Ultimately this gun use was more about taking unused guns on hand and getting a decent AT weapon out the door fast, by using them for this new purpose. They were not perfect, and as towed weapons, even really good, but on a mobile platform like the M10 or even the M6 heavy tank they did the job well enough.
The M2/M4 105mm Howitzer: Artillery in a Sherman Package
The US 105mm M2/M4 howitzer was the biggest gun installed in the Sherman, the versions of the Sherman with this gun were developed to replace the M7 Priest, but never fully did so during WWII. They were used in the same role, or in limited direct support roles. These tanks did not have a stabilized gun or wet ammo racks but did have a large hatch hull. All 105 Sherman tanks, either M4 (105)s or M4A3 (105)s were produced exclusively by Chrysler. 105 tanks carried 66 rounds of main gun ammo, in dry ammo racks.
Sherman tanks equipped with the 105 often found themselves pooled with the others from the three companies of a battalion, with the two from the battalion HQ, so the Tank Battalion could have their own mini 105 battery on call. When working with their assigned company, they were often held in the back and supported the gun tank platoons with indirect or direct fire.
The 17 pounder gun: 76.2mm of British High-Velocity Boom Boom
The 17-pounder was developed to replace the 6-pounder, it was clear the 57mm 6-pounder wasn’t going to be able to handle tanks with thicker armor, but it stayed surprisingly relevant late into the war. The 17-pounder started development in the final months of 1940 and was going into prototype testing in late 1941. The first few AT guns were made by slapping the gun onto the 25 pounder carriage called the 17/25 pounder, and some were shipped to North Africa, to counter the supposed Tiger threat. The full production QF 17 pounder AT gun was available by the Italian Campaign.
The main reason the gun was a better AT gun than the US M1A1 gun was the round had a lot more propellant behind the projectile and then the Brits came up with the super velocity discarding sabot round. This new round had very good penetration but had some serious accuracy problems. The accuracy problems with the SVDS ammo were not fully solved until after the war. The gun was intended for tank use, but the British Tanks meant for it had too many developmental problems, and were not going to be ready by Normandy landings, so the Sherman Firefly was born. See its own section for more info on these Shermans.
M4A1 with 76 gun
What’s left of an M4A3 75w on Iwo Jima
M36 with M3 90
Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, Archive Awareness, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, TM9-374 90mm Gun M3
WWII Variants, Other Than Tanks, Based on the Sherman: The Main being TDs like the M10 and M36
Tank Destroyers: Tank Hunters, Failed Role, Successful Killers
They did great things but the whole idea was bad. The TD Battalions of the US Army had very good combat records, but the whole concept was flawed. The idea of holding back battalion-size units to be rushed in to fight the tanks in a major attack just didn’t work in practice, and since the US Army was on the attack most of the time, the TD units ended up being used a lot like the separate Tank Battalions, just not as good at it.
The Vehicles themselves proved useful and often found themselves attached to Tank Divisions, and used in ways never planned for, like direct infantry support.
Click the link above for a dedicated page on the M10. ↑
M10: The First Good American TD
The M10 was a tank destroyer mounting a 3-inch anti-tank gun. It used the M4A2 chassis with the GM 6046 to power it. These tanks only had an M2 .50 caliber machine gun other than their main gun. The turret lacked a power traverse. It had a five-man crew and was generally liked by its crew. The American TD force was deemed a failure, but not because the men or vehicles performed badly, it was the doctrine that failed to pan out, the battalions themselves performed well overall. It was used until the end of the war, and many TD battalions preferred it over the faster M18. The TDs lacked a co-ax machine gun, this and their open-top made them more vulnerable to infantry than a tank. Even so, these units were often given tank missions. The open-top did offer a big advantage in finding any enemy tanks to shoot, and spotting close infantry.
One aspect of the design that shows how rushed it was, is the driver’s hatches. They were larger than the Shermans, but could not be opened or closed if the turret was forward. So the crew had to make a choice if the driver and co-driver were going to be able to see well or be buttoned, before the battle or movement. The M10 lacked a turret basket, so the driver and co-driver had an easier time getting out of the roofless turret. Like all American designs, it went through a series of upgrades through its service life. The turret was upgraded and balanced better, and the crews liked to add their own roofs. Extra machine gun mounts were a common modification. A power turret drive was never added to the tanks in US service.
The M10A1 version of this vehicle had a Ford GAA engine. There was no difference other than and minor improvements between an M10 and M10A1. Crews added on armored roofs to their turrets, often all hinged so they could open up to really see what was going on, in the field. It was not uncommon for TD units to be used as fixed artillery for several days. This was common practice in the MTO.
The M10 Turret went through several changes, the first versions were badly out of balance, and they tried to solve this by mounting the grousers for the tracks on the back of the turret. This didn’t work well and wedge-shaped counterweights were added. This helped, but eventually, the final production M10 turrets were widened, and even bigger counterweights were added with a distinct duckbill look to them. They came up with a full roof armor kit for the final turret, and a half cover for the early turrets that could be field retrofitted. In spite of these minor issues, the M10 started out popular with the troops, and never lost that affection.
The M10 and M10A1 had all the gear aboard to be used at artillery. A few TD battalions spent almost as much time as artillery as they did in their TD role. This capability was used often in Italy because the 3 inch gun on the M10 didn’t tear up the vital roads as much as the larger guns did. I would be surprised to find out the M36 didn’t have the same gear. They built 4993 M10s and 1713 M10A1s. At first, only M10 TDs were authorized for service overseas, and the M10A1, even though found to be automotively superior, was to be used in stateside training only. There was some doubt about the usefulness of the motorized TD before the Normandy landings, and production of the M10 was halted as many TD units were converted back to towed gun units or disbanded.
The M10 saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Northern Europe, and various Pacific Campaigns, the most notable being the retaking of the Philippines. It wasn’t really until the action started after the Allies went into Normandy that it really saw a lot of anti-armor use. In the MTO the TD units spent an awful lot of time being used as artillery units, to the point they had to learn how to swap barrels on their 3-inch guns after wearing the tubes out. The M10 in northern Europe saw lots of action but was also being replaced by the M18 and M36. The M36 was very popular, the M18 was mixed, some units love it, some units refused to give up their trusty M10s. The M10 was not popular in the Pacific, the thinner armor, lack of hull and co-ax machine guns and open top made for a much easier target destroy for Japanese troops.
Click the link above for a dedicated page on the M36. ↑
Another tank destroyer based on the Sherman chassis, basically an M10A1 with a new turret mounting a bigger gun. These tanks mounted the 90mm M3 gun. Often this tank’s turret was fitted to otherwise stock M4A3 hulls due to a shortage of M10 hulls. These TDs had full power traverse. These TDs were well-liked because the M3 worked well on both armor and soft targets since the M3 had a nice HE shell.
This TD suffered all the same problems dealing with infantry the M10 did, except in the M36 B1, since it was built on an M4A3 hull, it had a bow machine gun. This was as close to a factory produced 90mm Sherman during the war. It was also upgraded in a lot of units with some form of roof armor. It solved the drivers and co-drivers hatch problems and always had a power turret drive though.
There was a diesel-powered version based on the base M10 chassis powered by the GM 6046. There were 1413 M36s, 187 M36B1s, and 724 M36B2s. They produced it on the M4A3 and M10 hulls because they ran out of M10A1 hulls, and no more were going to be produced. Demand for the vehicle was so great they used what they had available. As far as I can tell they saw use only in Europe with the US Army, but the French used them in Indo-China (Vietnam).
. . .
Artillery: they have big guns, and their crews are usually deaf. (Coming soon)
105 Howitzer motor Carriage M7& M7B1: 4316 produced
155 Gun Motor Carriage M12: 100 produced
155 Gun Motor Carriage M40: 418 produced
8 Inch Howitzer Motor Carriage M43: 48 produced
Sources: Sherman by Hunnicutt, TM9-745, TM9-748, TM9-731b Yeide’s The Tank Killers, Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga